by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun ?
Hope you had your screenshot button at the ready for this week's episode of Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun. Rather than its animation, its still moments were where it shone the brightest. Director Masaomi Andō doubled down his trademark paneling to deliver an episode that felt more like a manga brought to life. This gorgeous episode was an exercise in mirror images, positioning the antagonists as a trio of dark reflections of Hanako, Nene, and Kou. Narratively, the story was all over the place, stringing together romantic intrigue with new worldbuilding tidbits and the introduction of a new rumor that concludes the episode at a very awkward moment. "Donuts" may have covered a lot of ground, but I can't deny how good it looked doing so.
Methinks a love triangle is in the works. Though headstrong Nene thinks neither Hanako nor Kou are her type, she keeps finding herself in romantic scenes with them both, the kind that encourage the audience to cheer for love rather than friendship. In beautifully choreographed and screenshot-ready scenes, Nene finds herself in both Hanako and Kou's arms at different times, and if her cute expressions are any hint, the implications are not lost on her. First, Nene navigates her changed relationship with a Hanako-kun she now sees as a tragic figure and has difficulty looking in the eye. Then Kou tries to help them both in his own way. Kou's request that Nene helps him bake donuts (when he doesn't really need the help, or the donuts) is a plotline right out of shojo manga. This first half of the episode is full of romantic tableaus, desktop wallpaper worthy scenes of our three protagonists growing closer. Usually, it'd be strange to praise an animation so much for its moments of stillness, but the deliberate choice to convey much of the episode through panels is executed beautifully; each panel takes a beat to impact the scene, drawing the viewer's attention to otherwise subtler intimate moments and creating a heightened sense of drama.
However, our romantic subplot is suddenly dashed by a deceptively familiar face. This new ghoul is not a dark doppelganger like I previously predicted, but apparently Hanako-kun's brother. They are certainly similar, and both are voiced by Megumi Ogata, who utilizes a playfully evil lilt for this new gremlin. Did Hanako kill him, as it is heavily implied that he did, and if so, why? In the flashback we witnessed alongside Nene, it was clear that someone was physically abusing Amane. Would it be really so surprising if he were to exact deadly revenge? We don't get any answers today because, in a reverse from the usual, it's Nene who comes to Hanako's rescue. Thanks in part to Kou's donuts, these two have been getting closer than ever. Before his brother showed up, it felt like Hanako may have even been on the verge of a confession. I'm excited to see how the dynamic between Hanako's brother and his two human companions differs. Right now, the antagonistic trio feels like a mirror image.
The episode ends on a weird note, right in the middle of a spirit accusing Kou of sexual harassment. It's hard to tell if this new spirit is really an apparition or just a classmate who happens to be undead (who knows what the admission rules are at this uber-goth school). Since there were so many small tangents, the episode didn't really follow one solid, clear trajectory. Instead of working together as a cohesive whole, its best moments were in stills of its thoughtful, beautifully arranged artwork.
Toilet-Bound Hanako-kun is currently streaming on FUNimation.
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